SINGAPORE - A 12-year-old Tanjong Katong Primary School (TKPS) pupil who was reported missing earlier at Mount Kinabalu has been found, said the Ministry of Education (MOE).
In an update at 12.20pm on Saturday (June 6), the ministry said the boy is now receiving medical treatment in Kota Kinabalu.
There are seven TKPS pupils and two teachers who are still unaccounted for. They are part of a group of 29 pupils and eight teachers from the school who were at Mount Kinabalu on an overseas learning journey when a 6.0-magnitude quake struck Sabah.
Out of the 21 pupils and six teachers who are accounted for, arrangements have been made for 19 pupils and two teachers to return to Singapore on Saturday afternoon, said MOE. Another two pupils and one teacher, who require more medical attention, will be returning on air ambulances later on Saturday.
Three other teachers will remain in Kota Kinabalu to continue working with the onsite team and to look after the 12-year-old boy receiving medical treatment in Kota Kinabalu.
Meanwhile, family members of the pupils and teachers who are still missing in Sabah after the earthquake have left for Kota Kinabalu on a Republic of Singapore Airforce (RSAF) C-130 aircraft.
They left on Saturday morning with a team of counsellors and officials from the police, Singapore Civil Defence Force and Ministry of Transport, said a MOE spokesman.
Malaysian authorities said on Friday night that a 12-year-old Singaporean girl was killed at Mount Kinabalu when a 6.0-magnitude earthquake struck Sabah on Friday (June 5).
According to a family member of a missing pupil who attended a briefing by Singapore's Ministry of Education, rescuers have found three more bodies but it is unclear whether they were part of the TKPS group.
A 22-year-old woman, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said her brother, a TKPS student, still could not be contacted on Saturday morning. "My aunt is now on her way to Sabah with the MOE," she told The Straits Times, adding that both her parents are unable to travel due to health reasons.
Her father, however, was at the Paya Lebar Air Base this morning, where MOE officials gave a briefing. "MOE said three more bodies have been found, but they cannot confirm their identities," she said.
"My brother is the active type, but we are all very worried. Our whole family is going to the temple now," she added.
The Singapore authorities have yet to confirm the reports.
Photos had emerged earlier on Facebook of the rescue efforts. Rescuers used what appeared to be makeshift stretchers to carry the injured, or even hoisted them on their backs.
A Singaporean parent, who posted on an education-related Facebook page, identified the boy being carried on the back of a rescuer as her son from TKPS. "Thts (sic) my son from TKP... he is currently receiving treatment for his injuries... please continue to pray for the team... can nvr thk the Sabahan rangers enough for his rescue efforts," wrote the parent who posted under the name "Sabrena El Huda".
The Education Ministry said that it is arranging for pupils and teachers from the school who are accounted for to fly home.
Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen confirmed in a Facebook post on Saturday morning that RSAF's C-130 aircraft will ferry the parents and other officials to Kota Kinabalu.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) has also despatched a Crisis Response Team to Sabah on Friday afternoon to provide consular assistance to Singaporeans.
The MFA added that Singapore's High Commissioner in Kuala Lumpur has contacted his counterparts in the Malaysian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and conveyed Singapore's message of support and offer of assistance.
Mr Sadri Farick, 37, the father of one of the TKPS pupils, said that a doctor in Sabah had called and informed him that his son has a fractured skull and back injuries. “I understand that five children have been injured. We have been suffering for the past 13 to 14 hours,” he said.
Mr Sadri said he managed to speak to his son on the phone. "He said to me, 'Papa, landslide, stones'. And then he couldn't talk anymore. He's going for an operation later," he told The Straits Times on early Saturday (June 6) before setting off for Sabah with his wife.
Mr Sadri finally met up with his son at the hospital on Saturday afternoon.
He added that his son was reportedly carried to safety by more experienced trekkers.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in a Faceook post on Saturday morning that Singapore will work with the Malaysian authorities to give them all the help they need.
Education Minister Heng Swee Keat said on Facebook that he is continuing discussions with MOE staff.
He had spoken with the parents whose children were unaccounted for at Tanjong Katong Primary School on Friday night.
Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said on Facebook "Our hearts go out to our 12-year olds and their teachers from Tanjong Katong Primary School who were caught in the tragic earthquake at Mount Kinabalu, and their families."
Minister for Foreign Affairs K Shanmugam also said in a Facebook post that he had been monitoring the incident. He added that his thoughts and prayers were with all those affected in the disaster.
The TKPS pupils were on a learning trip called "Omega Challenge".
The last entry on a blog for the learning journey was dated June 4 titled "Reached! Pendant Hut".
"What a day! Though it was an exhausting hike to Pendant Hut, Step by step, inch by inch, we All made it up!" said the blog post.
"It wasn't easy but they all succeeded getting up there. How did they make it up? How did they endure the cold wind and rain? How did they overcome the steepness of the mountain?
"The answer? Each other. They encouraged each other. They helped their friends by retrieving water bottles from their bags when it was hard to reach. They checked in with their friends by asking 'How are you?', 'Are you okay?'. They were effective. They pressed on. They utilised each other to give them strength. Eventually, they reached Pendant Hut. Together."
It ended with: "Tomorrow, we will take on the next challenge. VIA FERRATA! Bring it on, I say!"
Parents of the missing pupils told media that they were stranded at the Via Ferrata route. Many climbers are attracted to the challenging route where cables, metal rungs and bridges are set into the rocks on the steep terrain to help people ascend.
There were also reports of other climbers stranded there because of the quake.
It is not the first time the primary school has organised learning journeys to Mount Kinabalu. According to a magazine published by the school last year, the Omega Challenge, where pupils and teachers trek up Mount Kinabalu, is part of a special programme designed for the school's student leaders and sports leaders.
Students and staff from Fuchun Secondary and Greenridge Secondary schools were also at Mount Kinabalu. All the student and teachers have returned safely to Singapore at 12.20am on Saturday. These include 32 students and four teachers from Greenridge, and 26 students and four teachers from Fuchun.